Personhood, Heartbeat Bills Emerge in Nebraska, Kansas

A member of Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is introducing two of the most radical anti-choice bills in the country, a personhood measure to give legal status to zygotes and a ‘heartbeat law’ that would also effectively ban abortion. Like in Ohio, more established anti-choice groups are wary of passing such clearly unconstitutional laws and are instead encouraging the legislature to defund Planned Parenthood. The Omaha World Herald reports that State Sen. Mark Christensen is proposing both measures, and that the “heartbeat bill is expected to be introduced in the Kansas Legislature next month”:

At least one Nebraska lawmaker is looking at proposals for the new legislative session that would drastically limit legal abortion in the state.

One measure would declare that life — and legal status — begins at fertilization. The other would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually six to eight weeks into pregnancy.

"I'm more than willing to introduce them," said State Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial. "I'm willing to take on a fight."

The Heartbeat bill, crafted by Religious Right activist Janet Porter, has yet to face a vote in the Ohio State Senate because supporters amended the bill to make the bill even more onerous:

The proposed changes include the deletion of the word “viability” from a section of the bill. That would mean the heartbeat is the only indicator needed to prevent an abortion, not whether the fetus would survive outside the womb.



That change seems to run counter to testimony from obstetricians opposed to the bill who said in some births a fetus has been detected to have little if any chance of surviving once born. Other proposed changes:

• Add language that the state has a legitimate interest “from the outset of the pregnancy” in protecting the health of a woman and “the life of the fetus that may become a child.” Forte said the principle comes from a U.S. Supreme Court decision. However, the language possibly could be read to mean the state’s interest starts at conception.

• Clarifies that for a woman to make “an informed choice about whether to continue her pregnancy, the pregnant woman has a legitimate interest in knowing the likelihood of the fetus surviving to full term birth based upon the presence of cardiac activity.”

• Requires the presence or absence of a fetal heartbeat be recorded in a pregnant woman’s medical record, along with the methods used to test for a heartbeat, the date and time of the test, and the results.

Meanwhile, trouble in the legislature for the Heartbeat bill hasn’t slowed down efforts by Personhood Ohio to put the anti-choice law on the ballot in 2012:

Campaign officials have submitted the first round of signatures to Attorney General Mike DeWine, who has said he will certify it. "By law, he has to certify it within a couple of weeks," reports Dr. Michael Johnston, who is heading up the campaign. "So by the beginning of 2012, we'll be ready for our statewide campaign to gather the 380,000 signatures necessary to put the Ohio personhood amendment on the ballot."

If passed, the amendment would end abortion in the state.

"We are prayerfully doing what Ohio state law allows to defy judicial tyranny and to protect every unborn child in the state of Ohio," Johnston says.